31 December 2011

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillippe Sendker

This title will be released on 31 January, 2012.

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

I couldn't put this book down.  I read it in just a day or two and I found it to be a beautiful story lovingly told by a talented writer.  It is magical and poignant; an amazing, achingly sublime love story.  It is a tale of faithfulness, perseverance,  hope and trust.  When have you ever loved someone enough to let them go without hatred or malice?  Have you ever felt that kind of deep emotion that rings true thorough out your life despite the circumstances?  Funny how people live lives that they know they were not meant to live simply because it is convenient or the right thing to do.  As I read this book my heart ached for the characters but it ached also for myself. There is something in this book that will touch you profoundly, spur you onto greater heights.  I know this because one can not read this tale without thinking about one's own life and the trajectory it is taking them on.  Are you really living how you want, with whom you want...are you really honoring your soul or are you only marking time until some later date?  Perhaps we could all learn the art of hearing heartbeats, beginning with listening to our own.



December in Kalaw is a cold month. The sky is blue and cloudless. The sun wanders from one side of the horizon to the other, but no longer climbs high enough to generate any real warmth. The air is clear and fresh, and only the most sensitive people can still detect any trace of the heavy, sweet scent of the tropical rainy season, when the clouds hang low over the village and the valley, and the water falls unchecked from the skies as if to slake a parched world’s thirst. The rainy season is hot and steamy. The market reeks of rotting meat, while heavy black flies settle on the entrails and skulls of sheep and cattle. The earth itself seems to perspire. Worms and insects crawl out of its pores. Innocent rills turn to rushing torrents that devour careless piglets, lambs, or children, only to disgorge them, lifeless, in the valley below.
   But December promises the people of Kalaw a respite from all of this.  December promises cold nights and mercifully cool days. December, thought Mya Mya, is a hypocrite.
   She was sitting on a wooden stool in front of her house looking out over the fields and the valley to the hilltops in the distance. The air was so clear that she felt she was looking through a spyglass to the ends of the earth. She did not trust the weather. Although she could not remember ever in her life having seen a cloud in a December sky, she would not rule out the possibility of a sudden downpour. Or of a typhoon even if not a single one in living memory had found its way from the Bay of Bengal into the mountains around Kalaw. It was not impossible. As long as there were typhoons anywhere, one might well devastate Mya Mya’s native soil. Or the earth might quake. Even, or perhaps especially, on a day like today, when nothing foreshadowed catastrophe. Complacency was treacherous, confidence a luxury that Mya Mya could not afford. That much she knew at the bottom of her heart. For her there would be neither peace nor rest. Not in this world. Not in her life.



Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Great Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is his first novel. He lives in Berlin with his family.
* I received a free copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

21 December 2011

The Bee-Loud Glade - Steve Himmer

Fiction, Trade Paperback Original
ISBN 978-0-9845105-8-0
6 x 9 in / 224 pages
Publication Date: April 4, 2011

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”
-W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

The Bee-Loud Glade is the story of Finch, a daydreamer whose job as a marketer of plastic plants consists mostly of updating the blogs of the imaginary people he creates. Once new management steps in and kicks him out, Finch slowly lets go of all ties to the outside world. With both his electricity and motivation shut off, he sinks into a state of oblivion, holed up in his apartment for weeks on end. But when his reply to what he thinks is innocuous spam sweeps him into the world of billionaire Mr. Crane, Finch agrees to live and work—for more money than he’s ever imagined—as an ornamental hermit in a cave on Mr. Crane’s estate.
This darkly comic commentary on modern work and wealth thoughtfully probes deep-rooted questions about the nature of man, the workplace, and society (and what happens in their absence). Set in a postmodern pastoral landscape, it brings a playfulness more commonly found in urban fiction to an outdoor setting. With light and engaging prose, Himmer deftly unearths the ironies of life and the futility of escape.


A while back I wrote a review for a Korean movie called "Castaway on the Moon" (review here).  This novel tracks the same premise...disillusioned soul finds himself inexplicably 'trapped' in the center of everything.  It is a theme that I personally find fascinating.

Mr. Himmer has written a novel that manages to be sublime and deeply thought provoking simultaneously.  Rarely do authors manage the two so deftly.  As a commentary on modern life Himmer pretty much nails the essence of our daily existence...and our collective modern way of living has never seemed so inane, so inexplicably ridiculous.  Finch is a perfect citizen in so many ways.  He does just what he is told to do and if he stops to question 'why' he doesn't dwell on it for very long...he simply follows whatever instruction has been given him to the best of his abilities though he rarely tries very hard.

Now, with nothing but time on my hands, I didn't know where to start and it was simpler to not start at all.  I had no more interest in finding a job than I had in anything else

He is in every way a thoroughly modern man.  He exists without any particular passion, without any definable goal, no dreams, no real emotions...he is essentially an empty case, vacant and vacuous.  And he doesn't even realize that this is a tragedy.

Over the course as his tenure as 'hermit' Finch undergoes a gradual transformation...nothing very dramatic, just a slow, soft ascent into the realm of higher values.  At one point in the story Finch is struck by the industry of nature, it's beauty and perfect imperfections he marvels...

All this had been happening every day of my life, while I'd been moving too fast and with too sluggish a mind to take note.  While I'd been too busy shitting and showering and shaving myself, trundling myself off to work in a mental fog that lent itself to traffic jam driving but not to being alive.

The nature of his Glade-somewhat manipulated by man, not entirely secluded and sort of dependent on the care of outsiders and it's slow transformation through the years toward total independence tracks the progress of Finch's spirit.  He is not so much adrift in isolation as he is cast out of a society that has lost it's meaning, it's soul, it's raison d'etre.  Here, in The Bee-Loud Glade a man finds himself and in the process has thrown the world a lifeline out of chaos and maybe back into the Garden.


Steve Himmer teaches at Emerson College in Boston, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and is on the faculty of the First-Year Writing Program. His stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Hobart, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Emprise Review, and Everyday Genius. He also is a frequent blogger on writing and teaching, and edits Necessary Fiction, a webjournal from So New Publishing, a press based in Eugene, Oregon.
You can find Bee-Loud Glade at Atticus Books here.

The Bee-Loud Glade is his first novel.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

17 December 2011


wear your white shirts. get them pressed.

use your good dishes -- everyday.

shave on weekends.

do not wait for special occasions.

do not tuck your best away in the drawers, in the back of the closet, in your heart.

don't wait for holidays or invitations.

declare that your today is the special occasion.

call instead of emailing. (it feels so good to connect.)

go for coffee.


take care of it.

renounce your glory days. you've told all of those stories more than twice.

focus forward.

wear perfume for yourself. toss your only-wear-around-the-house clothes and let your good clothes graduate to around-the-house status.

intend to feel good all of the time.

write your book.


burn your to-do list.

write poetry. one a day.

make a point to be as encouraging as possible, as much as possible, to everyone possible.
don't look back.

if you feel like you're always failing, consider that this is part of being an artist. let it be a divine inclination. keep going.



eat real food.

often refuse to be in the presence of people who make you feel repressed, anxious, or pull your frequency down.

do not entertain haters.

send light to the haters.

give it away. you probably don't need it and someone else does.

turn off the tv.

let it be easy.

burn candles. during the day.

fall in love. with yourself. with the person you're with. with the persons in your orbit.
because no one is perfect, but you can let the love be perfect for the both of you.
because everyone -- everyone -- is a doorway to God.
because you can get there from here.

because life is short.

*from HERE

16 December 2011

Nazareth, North Dakota - Tommy Zurhellen

 Nazareth, North Dakota: A Novel
by Tommy Zurhellen
Fiction, Trade Paperback Original
ISBN 978-0-9845105-6-6
5.25 x 8 in / 212 pages
Publication Date: April 15, 2011


This gem of a novel—a splendid recasting and modern retelling of the story of the young messiah—is a fast, quirky, dirt-kicking ride through the Badlands of North Dakota from the early 1980s to the present, complete with feathered locks, KISS cover bands, and fire-and-brimstone preachers. It’s an adventurous, irresistible tale about everything from a 31-year-old fugitive mom who escapes a motel shootout with an abandoned new born to a corrupt sheriff, a kindhearted carpenter, the world’s oldest man, and the chosen paths of two hell-raising, miracle-bent cousins.
This incandescent debut is an authentic religious allegory connecting Lakota history with scripture. It contains plot twists and undeniable truths as deep and wide as the Little Missouri River, with ideas and messages so big, so earthshaking, so unmistakably divine, they do more than transform the little town of Nazareth. They change the world.

Nazareth, North Dakota is an imaginative and whimsical retelling The New Testament.  Tommy Zurhellen's latest novel tracks the events of the Bible in modern times, his story populated by ever too real misfits, malcontents, lost souls and of course larger than life heroes.  It is a tale as old as time and yet presented under a modern context.  As such the reader must ask himself or herself just one question...exactly how would we react if Jesus arrived today?  Would you believe?  What if John the Baptist was planted on the shores of the Rio Grande...would you go?

Waiting around for God!  As if God isn't already in every blade of grass and slab of concrete we walk upon, and in the very air we breathe.  Waiting around for God!  As if the Lord doesn't show us miracles every single day.  A miracle is like a big billboard that reads, "Don't worry God's coming."  Sometimes we're too stubborn to look up and read the signs.

How could I not truly enjoy this novel?  Compelling characters that are familiar and yet brand new, a well known tale wrought anew by a slight twist of perspective.  Each day I approached my reading with an eager spirit and, in the end, that is all I could ask of any novel.



Tommy Zurhellen was born in New York City. Nazareth, North Dakota is his first novel.
To find out more about Tommy, his upcoming tour dates and his research for the sequel Apostle Islands, visit his website.
Read a short story written during the evolution of Nazareth, North Dakota.
Learn about Tommy’s many sources of inspiration for the novel at High Plains Reader.
Check out Tommy’s interview at Eleutherophobia, which covers everything from Nazareth to wave-making waterbeds.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

10 December 2011

May B. by Caroline Rose

On Sale: January 10, 2012
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-1-58246-393-3

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

CAROLINE STARR ROSE spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books by Laura Ingalls, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and went on to teach both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, the freedom to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Visit her at carolinestarrrose.com.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

08 December 2011

Tyndale Giveaway

There is a great giveaway happening over at the New Living Translation Facebook page, and a chance to enter a Tyndale Blog Network exclusive giveaway.

Here are the NLT Facebook page giveaway details:
Starting on November 29th until December 24th at the New Living Translation Facebook page they're giving away lots of great prizes and something free for just for singing up.
By visiting the giveaway entry page (located on the NLT Facebook page, the link is under the profile picture) and entering your name and e-mail address you'll be entered to win the following prizes:
  • One random person each day will win a Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (Guys Life Application Study Bible hc, Girls Life Application Study Bible hc, Student's Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible Large Print hc).
  • One Random person each week will win an Apple iPad 2!
Everyone that signs up gets a free download copy of the Life Application Bible Study – Book of Luke!

But Wait! 

There's more!

Here's how you can win by helping them promote this giveaway:

The first 100 people to post about this giveaway on their personal blog will win a free Life Application Study Bible. They'll also choose one person from all the entries to win a free Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (includes 6 Bibles!). You can earn extra entries by posting about the giveaway in multiple places.

For more details and to enter fill out this form with the link to your blog post (click here to visit the form).

Good Luck!